You might think the big comic book studios are running out of material when it comes to new movie ideas, but you'd be wrong. Here we bring you six of the best untapped superhero franchises yet to face the mightiest force of all: Hollywood.

Take a quick glance at the release schedule for forthcoming comic book movies and it's not hard to see that both DC and Marvel are locked in a race over who can plan the furthest.

While some projects – such as a solo outing for Wonder Woman and a third Captain American film – will see those companies mine their existing flagship characters for even greater box office returns, other projects – such as Marvel’s soon to be released Ant-Man – will test the water on properties typically below the public radar. Should Ant-Man succeed, and DC find similar success with its villain-centric Suicide Squad, it will no doubt open a whole Pandora's Box of lesser-known superhero talent for cinematic treatment.

With that in mind, we paused to ask what other comic book characters are ready and waiting for a trip to the big screen?

Spider-Woman (Marvel)

For those unfamiliar with Jessica Drew, the character’s background as a double agent for both S.H.I.E.L.D. and Hydra would be a natural fit for the Marvel cinematic universe’s use of these two spy organizations. With powers of flight, bio-electric venom blasts, super strength and wall crawling, Spider-Woman has been a recent member of the Avengers, as well as having starred in her own solo comic book series twice.

Her adventures were often focused on supervillains and street-level criminals, but she has proven herself a team player with a mysterious past who can hold her own against the worst of the worst. Could she make an appearance in a future Marvel film? Who knows, but her presence on the screen would add another powerful and capable female hero to Marvel’s live-action roster.

Secret Six (DC)

DC is rolling the dice with Suicide Squad (its film about a team of elite supervillains forced to carry out government missions) so who’s to say the same couldn’t be done with another of DC’s cult hit series, Secret Six?

The book revolves around a group of villains, initially drawn together to stand up to another, larger group of villains, who then go on to become a team for hire. Together they take on missions that span the globe, forming close ties with one another along the way. Both Deadshot, featured in Suicide Squad, and ultimate Batman villain Bane were central figures in the series, and the opportunity to see these familiar characters alongside series regulars like Catman and Ragdoll (a hunter-turned-villain and a demented contortionist, respectively) would be huge fun to watch.

Martian Manhunter (DC)

DC kicked the door wide open to the idea of alien life with Man of Steel, which introduced a new take on the cinematic Superman and firmly established him as an intergalactic outsider. Martian Manhunter has been a fan-favorite character for years, and was a charter member of the first Justice League of America. There's no reason he couldn't be the next face to fill DC's franchise roster.

The popular origin for the Martian depicts him as the last of his race – a man adjusting to life on Earth with powers of intangibility, flight, telepathy, shapeshifting and invisibility. The character alone would be a special effects delight on screen, and the concept of him being the last of his kind would have strong resonance with an already established Superman in DC’s cinematic universe. Martian Manhunter is frequently mentioned as one of DC’s strongest and most enduring heroes, and he could easily fill in a spot in an expanding Justice League film roster.

Alpha Flight (Marvel)

This one might seem like a stretch to some, but why should the Americans have all the comic book fun? A film version of Canada’s premier super team would open up a completely new region of the comic book map – not to mention exploit some rich characters.

Marvel has proven that their movies aren't afraid to shy away from the humor and charisma of their characters, and Alpha Flight certainly has its share of both of those. With figures like the superhumanly agile Puck, the magically endowed Shaman, self-explanatory Sasquatch, and superhuman Guardian as part of this formidable roster, an Alpha Flight film would showcase a group of heroes that have been around for over thirty years now. With Marvel exploring both magic and new parts of the world with upcoming films Doctor Strange and Black Panther, both realms could come together with a film about this unique group of heroes, who once even fought alongside Wolverine.

Young Avengers (Marvel)

While we’re on the subject of Marvel super teams, let's not forget the teenage Young Avengers. Who says heroes have to be adults? With powers and abilities that mimic their ageing counterparts, their roster includes a young, female Hawkeye, Iron Lad and Patriot (a recipient of the same serum that created Captain America). Yet don’t mistake these kids for simply younger versions of more established characters; this new generation of heroes could easily soar across the screen in adventures of their own. The Young Avengers have proven their heroism time and again in both the pages of their own comic book series and in some of Marvel’s biggest standalone stories – don't rule them out!

Nightwing (DC)

It’s actually a little surprising that DC hasn’t explored a cinematic take on Nightwing yet. After many years fighting at Batman’s side, Dick Grayson grew tired of being Robin and subsequently struck out on his own as Nightwing – a new hero in his own right who eventually became the defender of the city Bludhaven as well as a member of the Teen Titans.

Nightwing possesses the same acrobatic skills and arsenal that served him so well as Robin, but this time with his own style and flair. With his wisecracking nature and killer moves, Nightwing could certainly anchor his own film against the familiar backdrop of the Batman franchise and mythos. While the character has a rich history with his connection to Batman, Nightwing has done a lot to establish his own presence and identity in comics since the character’s introduction in the mid-1980s. A Nightwing film would unearth a new dimension to the Batman film universe, as well as bring one of DC’s most enduring figures to a much wider audience.

Words by Nick Winstead for Highsnobiety.com

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